When recipes change my life, I can’t help but say so, loudly and to whoever is around, even and especially when they did not ask. So when the subject of food editor Shilpa Uskokovic’s Fresh Pasta With Buttered Tomatoes was raised recently at work, I told everyone present that it was the only fresh pasta recipe I would ever make again.
I’m not often inclined to make pasta from scratch, which ironically is the reason this recipe appealed to me in the first place. Shilpa calls for only two ingredients—semolina flour and just-boiled water—that you mix with a fork in a bowl, rest at room temperature for an hour or two, then shape with a rolling pin and knife. None of that fancy right-on-the-counter egg whisking, no complicated KitchenAid attachment, no endless hydration time. Mix, wait, roll, slice—that’s it. I knew I could do it, so long as I had a bag of semolina flour.
What is semolina flour?
Semolina flour is a coarse, sturdy flour made from durum wheat that you will likely find in the baking section of your local grocery store. It is sunny in color, turning pasta dough yellow, even without egg yolks. And it has a higher protein and gluten content than all-purpose flour, making it a strong choice for pasta and pizza. Semolina dough is elastic and malleable but not sticky, holds its shape once boiled (important for more intricate pasta shapes), and plays nicely with all manner of sauces. As Shilpa notes, it’s “a bit chewier than an egg yolk dough,” which is her preference. If you love a Chinese hand-pulled noodle as much as I do, you’ll find that you agree.
How do you make semolina pasta?
It could not be simpler. Shilpa instructs you to roll pieces of your rested dough into “long, narrow, 1/16th-inch-thick rectangles” without flouring your surface first, which I thought would be impossible. But the springy mixture spread readily without tearing, and after a few minutes and a light arm workout I had paper-thin sheets. The foolproof method convinced me I could be a fresh pasta person with some regularity, and when I asked Shilpa about it, she had a similar experience. “Thanks to this dough, I make fresh pasta more often than I ever imagined I would,” she says. “Probably once a month.”
When Shilpa was developing this recipe, I even pulled out the dough for Christmas last year with a simple ragù. I would have laughed in your face if you’d told me I’d make fresh pasta for a crowd for a holiday prior to learning this method, but I’m a changed woman now—one with a bag of semolina in my pantry just in case I need to last-minute blow the roof off the place with very little effort. Best of all, there were no stray egg whites to deal with the next day. “Pavlova is great,” says Shilpa, “but only so many times.”
Let’s get rolling
Two-ingredient homemade pasta (no machine required!) meets a buttery yet fresh tomato sauce finished with a drop of umami-rich fish sauce.